Much has been made of Indiana men’s basketball’s depth this year. And Sunday, some of those players got a crack at bigger roles.
Junior guard Trey Galloway missed IU’s 86-56 win over Miami (OH) in Indianapolis because he twisted his knee in the Xavier game on Friday. That made some first-half minutes available, and there was plenty of flexibility as the game became lopsided in the second half.
Freshman forward Malik Reneau playing well off the bench in a sizable role is nothing new, but extended run for freshman guard CJ Gunn and sophomore guard Tamar Bates was notable.
“Our bench is just as important as the guys that start the game. I can’t say that loud enough,” IU head coach Mike Woodson said. “I’ve got faith and I believe in everybody that’s wearing that uniform.”
Gunn didn’t see the court against Xavier, but he was the biggest benefactor of Galloway’s injury. He saw real playing time in the first half — while the game was still tight — and wound up playing 18 minutes. And he had some bright moments. He finished with five points, though on a 2-for-7 clip, with two assists, a rebound, two steals, and a block.
Indiana was plus-22 with Gunn on the floor, the third-highest mark on the team. This was, by far, the most Gunn’s played this season. He only checked in once the game was out of reach against Morehead State and Bethune-Cookman. IU has so many options off the bench, but he could be pushing for a bigger role, based on these minutes Sunday.
“CJ is fine. He is in a good place,” Woodson said. “I expect him to come out and play and give us positive minutes.”
Reneau has impressed off the bench in every IU game this season, and he continued that strong play Sunday. He shot 5 for 7 with 10 points, along with four rebounds, three assists, and three steals. It’s still early, and a lot of bigger tests await, but Reneau already looks like a potential difference-maker in Big Ten play.
Bates also played a season-high in minutes against Miami with 25. He’s been more of a regular than Gunn so far, though, as Bates played more than 20 minutes in both the Morehead State and Bethune-Cookman games. On Sunday, he chipped in seven points on a 2-of-6 line, with one rebound, one assist, and one steal.
“I always just want to bring a spark off of the bench,” Bates said. “No matter how the game is going, I want to kind of pick up the pace or do what I can to affect the game with my particular skill set.”
Junior forward Jordan Geronimo wasn’t a factor against Xavier, playing just five minutes. But he got back in the rotation again Sunday, with 19 minutes. He contributed six points and four rebounds, and played his usual effective defense with five blocks.
Woodson’s lineups and minute distributions are clearly fluid this early in the season. He knows he has a lot to work with. So he’s emphasizing focus to his bench players, to be able to capitalize on their opportunities.
“They just have got to stay ready. You know, I mean, I am still trying to figure out rotations and who can do what and what combinations work, and that can be an ongoing process, you know, as we navigate this season.”
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